BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Just another game for Juan Castillo. Even though itll be the first time hes coaching defense during a football game in 22 years.
The Eagles preseason game against the Ravens Thursday night at the Linc will be Castillos first game as an NFL defensive coordinator. Or as an NFL defensive coach period.
Castillo, the Eagles offensive line coach from 1998 through 2010, was named defensive coordinator in February, replacing Sean McDermott.
Since he didnt have any offseason workouts or player meetings to run during the lockout, Castillo has really only had these first two weeks of camp to establish himself as the leader of this defense.
Head coach Andy Reid called Thursdays game the next step for Castillo, whose last coaching experience on the defensive side of the football was at Kingsville (Texas) High School in 1989.
I think this is good for him, Reid said. Weve done the mock situations out here, weve done the move-the-ball periods out here, hes used the headset, so this is the next step there. And then, the communication process I will be listening to that. The communication process with players and Ill do the same thing on the opposite side of the ball. I have both lines going. The feedback that hes getting from the box (upstairs) on substitutions and so on. So Ill be listening to the whole procedure.
Castillo said theres no significance to Thursday night beyond the fact that its his first chance to see his rookies and newcomers playing against another team.
He said the way the Eagles have run practice the past two weeks at Lehigh has prepared him for whatever comes up against the Ravens.
Well, coach Reid has really done a good thing for me as far as during practices, (since) we dont script anything, Castillo said. So whats happening is Im calling the plays, the defenses, through all of the 7-on-7, all the special cats (categories), full-team drills. Im not looking at a script, we dont have it written down, and then really making it harder because youre running around and then boom all of a sudden they tell you the personnel and you have to go ahead and call it. You should end up learning your own defense. I shouldnt have to look at a sheet to call it.
But you know, I havent done it in the NFL. So just like all of us, it will be my first time, and Ill get better every game.
Interesting that Castillo and Ravens head coach John Harbaugh both first came to Philly as members of Ray Rhodes coaching staff, and theyve remained very close friends.
Castillo joined Rhodes staff in 1995 as an offensive assistant, and Harbaugh followed in 1998 as special teams coach.
When Reid arrived in 1999, he kept four assistant coaches -- Castillo, Harbaugh, running backs coach Ted Williams (whos still here) and strength and conditioning coach Mike Wolf (who was fired after the 2009 season).
Castillo said Reid has done a good job during training camp making sure Castillo is ready for what hell face Thursday night. The Ravens are expected to play their starters in the first quarter, so that means Joe Flacco, Ray Rice and Anquan Boldin will be among the challenges for Castillo in his first NFL game as a defensive coach.
You can look at tape and all that, but I think the best thing thats helped me is (at practice), youre running around, and then all of a sudden they say, OK, its this personnel, Castillo said. And I dont have much time to think and -- boom -- I give the front and I give the coverage.
I think thats the best think thats helped me, especially running around because your head hurts, youre tired. So its really like, Bam, bam, you have to call the front and the coverage.
Preseason opener could be sloppy
Nobody quite knows what to expect Thursday night when the Eagles open the preseason with a 7:30 p.m. game against the Ravens at the Linc.
The lockout meant no OTAs, minicamps, playbooks, film sessions or team meetings for the youngsters, so for about 40 of the Eagles who will play Thursday -- rookies and free agents from other teams -- the game will be just two weeks after they first received their playbook.
I think theres going to be some learning going on out there, Eagles head coach Andy Reid said. It might not be quite as crisp as what it is once we get back into the minicamps and those type of things next year. Just by number of reps each guy has had on each play.
But at the same time, youre going to have great energy and guys will be flying around. As coaches, weve cut the package down for them so that they can show their talents a little bit, but I think its something were all looking forward to.
Jackson to start at center
Reid said veteran Jamaal Jackson will start at center against the Ravens. Both Jackson and rookie Jason Kelce have taken reps with the first-team offense at practice.
Jackson hasnt played since getting hurt late in the 2009 season but when healthy is considered a top-10 NFL center. Kelce has had a nice training camp but is still a rookie sixth-round pick.
E-mail Reuben Frank at email@example.com